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Animals > Crocodile


Medieval oak carving of a double-headed crocodile

This piece was made to hang down from a roof as a crane, probably to hold a font cover from the hook in its jaws.  It has one set of jaws, but eyes and nose on two sides so that, when hanging in position, it can be viewed from any angle and still look like a conventional crocodile.


There is a medieval carved wooden crocodile in a courtyard beside Seville Cathedral, supposedly made to commemorate a gift of the real thing made by an admirer to the daughter of King Alfonso X of Castile.  More probably it was intended to deter the forces of evil from entering the cathedral as the crocodile was thought to have apotropaic qualities - it was able to protect against the evil eye.


A stuffed medieval crocodile can still be seen hanging from the wall of the Cathedral of St Bertrand-de-Comminges in France.  This was, supposedly, the body of a monster that lived in a local valley imitating the cries of children in order to attract and then devour its victims.  St Bertrand found it and touched its head with his episcopal staff, whereupon the crocodile became tame and meekly followed the bishop back to the church where it died.  More probably the skin was brought back from the east by a medieval pilgrim.


The myths about the crocodile seem to be fairly interchangeable with those about all manner of monsters, including dragons and serpents.